whiskers in the water




After the chemo and the throwing up,

after the passion of a life upset,
after I watched the color of the skin turn yellow--

my thoughts more and more about things

that never happened--after I spent many nights
alone, happy for the police dramas on television,

I kept to myself.

The cancer saved me from having to go
to another book party

from having to ask M. to come back

who, after all, had fallen out of love
because I was different now, thin

bone and severity, free to consider

my absence, where nothing aches
and the messy sexual hungers are far off

in the past. After I slept for days,

after the dazzle of wild, repeatable dreams,
there was no afterlife,

just the same way from the bed

to the bathroom and back again
without the body.

- Jason Shinder, from Stupid Hope

DIY with Maryann: Dumb Luck in the Ottoman Empire


6 years ago I bought a green armchair. It was my first real furniture purchase. Everything else had been handed down, thrifted, gifted, or craigslisted. I remember standing in the furniture store's checkout line, holding the chair's barcode slip in my hand and thinking, "This is it. If you buy this, you can't hop on a plane tomorrow to move away. You have a real piece of furniture now. It's heavy and takes up space. There's no going back, YOUR POSSESSIONS OWN YOU NOW!"

But I pushed that voice aside and bought it anyway. I soon realized I needed an ottoman to go with the chair, but when I returned to the store they had an ottoman with a slightly different shade of green fabric. "It will do!" I decided. It was first thing Oz ever slept on after I picked him up from the shelter (an actual picture from our first hours together):

As you can see, the ottoman is a nice dark sage green color. Fine! But no longer. I needed a change. I hope to reupholster the armchair too, but I decided to try the ottoman first, since it should be easier. And of course I went about it with the usual DIY with Maryann diligence:

Rules of 'DIY With Maryann'

1) Spend more money than you would if you've just bought something already made by a professional.
2) Do not use any professional tools.
3) Do not consult any professional advice or helpful hints on the internet.
4) Use the most inefficient method possible to complete the project.
5) If the completed project didn't turn out perfect, leave it as is.  You tried.

The rules were followed to a 't' this time around. In regards to #1, I DID want to buy a new ottoman. But honestly the one I've got is super comfy and still in great shape. I was just sick of the fabric, so re-upholstering felt like the responsible thing to do for now, even if my work was nowhere near what a professionally reupholstered ottoman would look like. 

These were my supplies, the usual suspects:

1) Two yards of home decor fabric.
2) Run-of-the-mill sewing supplies: no-frills thread, needle, scissors, etc.

That's it. I considered stripping the ottoman of its original fabric, but it was still intact and attached well to the frame. So I followed my MO: sew over!

I picked a bright (shocking), colorful (whaaat?), patterned (really?) home decor fabric for the ottoman. I loooove it. Does it look homemade/handmade? Totally. But all in all it took me only two nights and $20 for the fabric, and it makes me so much happier now than it did before. Want to see it? Behold, my CHEVRON RAINBOW OTTOMAN!

How I sewed it on was a bit of dumb luck. I had no plan, no guide, no tips. I went on instinct alone. What you see is all the same one piece of fabric--my original two yards. It's hard to explain, but I put the fabric on top, and tucked it into the middle on the far ends. From there I sewed the ends of the fabric to the bottom of the ottoman by the feet.

Then for the other sides I folded the fabric underneath  and towards the center, like the ends of wrapping paper on a gift. I lined it up to the middle, cut off the excess, and sewed in the rest. I haven't sewn the corner folds yet, and I'm not sure I will. I kind of like how they look un-sewn. Here's a better look at the big sides and the folded corners:

Oz was very helpful as my Scrap Boy. It's like a ball boy but with scraps.

My one regret? I really should have ironed the fabric first. But I'm a bit gungho, and when I want to get started on something I WANT TO GET STARTED. No logic or reason or patience allowed! But now I'm left with the fabric bolt crease down the middle of my ottoman:

I'm pretty sure that if I really wanted to I could just iron the ottoman directly? Someday. But for now, here's a photo of the ottoman with my couch, and me in my pajamas. You're welcome.

#184: Fresh by Sly and the Family Stone

Fresh by Sly and the Family Stone (1973)

Favorite Tracks: "In Time" and "Let Me Have It All" and "Frisky" and "Thankful and Thoughtful" and "Skin I'm In" and "I Don't Know (Satisfaction)" and "Que Sera, Sera (Whatever Will Be, Will Be)" and "If It Were Left Up to Me"

Thoughts: Confession: Growing up I had a hard time distinguishing Sly and the Family Stone from KC and the Sunshine Band. Unforgiveable, I know.

The title of the album says it all. Super funky, luscious, full-bodied, vivacious--FRESH. I was reminded of Stevie Wonder and Al Green, which is always good. Plus, just look at that album cover! So fun.

Is This Better Than Bad?: Just as good!

An Excellent Summation


(Louis CK)

Armchair Affair


Nox Borealis


If Socrates drank his portion of hemlock willingly,
if the Appalachians have endured unending ages of erosion,
if the wind can learn to read our minds
and moonlight moonlight as a master pickpocket,
surely we can contend with contentment as our commission.

Deer in a stubble field, small birds dreaming
unimaginable dreams in hollow trees,
even the icicles, even the icicles shame us
with their stoicism, their radiant resolve.

Listen to me now: think of something you love
but not too dearly, so the night will steal from us
something we can afford to lose.

- Campbell McGrath, Poetry October 2012

"I must be a mermaid, Rango. I have no fear of depths and a great fear of shallow living."


- Djuna in Anais Nin's The Four-Chambered Heart (1950)

I wanted to start another embroidery project, but was feeling uninspired. I looked on Etsy for a pattern and found quite a few I liked. But then I thought, "Wait, why pay for a pattern? Surely there's some fun free patterns online. To Google Image!"

I scrolled and scrolled until I saw this drawing:


Well, that was it! I was inspired! Normally I would have gone to the craft store to pick floss colors, but I had quite a few left over and/or unused at home. I decided to pick colors directly from my current collection, which bred some creativity.

First I blew up the size of the photo using my work scanner. (Then about 6 hours later I remembered I left the original print-out in the copier and raced back to work before we opened to retrieve it. 'Cause boobs!)  Then I made her hair shorter, because short hair is great. NOT because I wanted her boobs to be more visible, though that didn't bother me. Areolas for everyone!

When I get going on a project I rarely feel like stopping to take phase photos, so you get to see the almost finished product. The only thing missing from these photos is a fish I added later. Maybe this weekend I'll take a picture so you can see it. It's to the left of the mermaid's head (her right) to balance out the scene a bit.

Close up:


I wasn't sure I wanted to do freehand scales on her tale, but decided to just go for it, and I like how it turned out, even with its inconsistencies. As you might have seen, the scales are made up of 4 different colors of green floss. I just started a new color whenever the previous one ran out!

I confess I love doing the satin stitch, which is what I used for filling out her hair and fins. It's so easy to cover up mistakes and the payoff is gorgeous. I considered doing the whole tail in satin stitch, but then her torso would be the one thing not in satin stitch, and doing her skin in it too would feel like a waste of floss.

I also played around with the idea of giving her tattoos and/or glasses and making her look more modern, but I was worried it might ruin the look. So I'm saving those for the next attempt. I think if I could change anything, I would wish for her face to look less cutesy. The drawing of her face felt too doll-like to me, but my attempts to change it were pretty minor. I need more practice doing faces.

DIY With Maryann: Cool Stool (Yule Fool Tool Mule Jewel Fuel Wool)


At the last place I lived there was this awesome bar built into the wall that went from the living room through the bedroom (Like, through the bedroom wall). It was great for projects and eating and putting stuff on.  The apartment was partially furnished with some floor lamps and one large, rickety wood stool. But it was such a large bar I thought I should get another stool.  I wanted a really cool one of course, but do you know how expensive bar stools are? Really expensive. Especially the hand-painted kind I was interested in:

But unfortunately I cannot hand-paint wood as well as Pam. I wish I could! Someday I'll try. So I went with a laaaame overpriced stool from Bed, Bath and Beyond.  The stool inspired about as much joy in me as, well, the other kind of stool.

Even Oz was unimpressed. (That's the large rickety wood stool on the far left.)

So when I moved to my Forever Home* the stool came with me, even though the bar here is lower and therefore doesn't really require stools. So it just hung out by my desk (I don't have a desk chair) and served as extra seating or a step stool when the need arose. I didn't want to get rid of it, but it did not fit my preferred decor.  So what did I do? I took it apart and gave it new life!

The legs were painted and the seat re-upholstered. I mean, that's what a professional would have done. But this is DIY with Maryann, so of course it was a much quicker, sloppier process...

Rules of 'DIY With Maryann'

1) Spend more money than you would if you've just bought something already made by a professional.
2) Do not use any professional tools.
3) Do not consult any professional advice or helpful hints on the internet.
4) Use the most inefficient method possible to complete the project.
5) If the completed project didn't turn out perfect, leave it as is.  You tried.

If I wanted to do a good job painting the legs of the stool, I would have bought paint made for metal and  paintbrushes so the paint would go on evenly.  I would have wiped down the legs with a damp cloth to make sure it was cleaned of cat hair, dust, and any other debris.  I did none of these things!

I unscrewed the seat, took the legs out to the deck, picked a color of spray-paint, and hosed her down.  Sure, there were streaks of paint, but that just means you apply more coats!

As for the seat, I grabbed some leftover decor fabric I used for my cat bed and pinned it tightly across the seat. A professional would use an upholstery stapler (something I would love but probably can't be trusted to use in moderation) or at least thick, durable thread. I mean, this has to withstand the weight of a human! So of course I just went to town on it with regular sewing thread, willy-nilly.

'Finished' product!

See my clean, well hidden seams? How thoroughly I sprayed the legs where they meet the footrest? Pretty classy. But truly, I love how it turned out. Even with my slipshod sewing.

As you can see from the above photo and this one, Oz seems to like it too:

Here's a closer shot of the seat:

I smile really big now when I see it. And now we should all take a moment to watch this:

*This term is often used by animal shelters when an animal is adopted, but I like to use it for my condo because I have no plans to ever leave it.


I watched a snake once, swallow a rabbit.
Fourth grade, the reptile zoo
the rabbit stiff, nose in, bits of litter stuck to its fur

its head clenched in the wide
jaws of the snake, the snake
sucking it down its long throat.

All throat that snake--I couldn't tell
where the throat ended, the body
began. I remember the glass

case, the way that snake
took its time (all the girls, groaning, shrieking
but weren't we amazed, fascinated,

saying we couldn't look, but looking, weren't we
held there, weren't we
imagining--what were we imagining?).

Mrs. Peterson urged us to move on girls,
but we couldn't move. It was like
watching a fern unfurl, a minute

hand move across a clock. I didn't know why
the snake didn't choke, the rabbit never
moved, how the jaws kept opening

wider, sucking it down, just so
I am taking this in, slowly,
taking it into my body:

this grief. How slow
the body is to realize.
You are never coming back.

- Donna Masini

#185: So by Peter Gabriel


So by Peter Gabriel (1986)

Favorite Tracks: "Red Rain" and "Sledgehammer" and "Don't Give Up" and "That Voice Again" and "In Your Eyes"

Thoughts: An excellent album for a Monday. This weekend I went to a wedding that had an instrumental version (probably by Vitamin String Quartet) of "In Your Eyes" as part of the processional music. It was wonderful.

There's something so comforting about 80s and 90s pop music. It reminds me of my childhood and my parents.  Well, so does music from the 50s, 60s, and 70s. Though in this case I think my parents were bigger Phil Collins' fans than Peter Gabriel. I remember my dad telling me about Peter's departure from Genesis to go solo and then the band became even more famous. Who knows if it really was an ego thing or artistic differences, but ever since I've sort of kept Peter at a distance, enjoying a few songs but never giving him any of my true musical devotion.

As such, this is my first real attempt at familiarizing myself with his work, and as albums go, So is pretty excellent. Side A was full of excellent pop songs, both in lyrics and production. "In Your Eyes" was, of course, the crown jewel. Who doesn't love that song? I finally saw Say Anything a year or so ago, and Lloyd Dobbler was definitely worthy of his iconic boombox scene.  But from "In Your Eyes" I lost interest in the rest of the album. The rest of the tracks felt so throw away to me.

Is This Better Than Bad?: Bad doesn't have throw away songs, so (hehe)...

side eye


Outwitting Your Kitten with Maryann: Tipping Point


We've all been there. Your kitten is constantly knocking over your bedroom garbage can to find a toy to play with from its contents, and you have to clean the leftover mess on an almost daily basis. But you don't have time for that! Season 9 of The X-Files is not going to finish itself (though you wish it would--it's the woooorst). You've got important shit to do that shouldn't include cleaning up shit more than once. Once you put stuff in your bedroom garbage can, you shouldn't have to do it again, am I right? Stand up for yourself.

Now, you might think you have a solution. "I know, I'll spray the kitten with the water bottle whenever he tips it over!" But I'm here to tell you that won't work. You can't be watching your bedroom garbage can 24 hours a day! You've got to sleep at least a few of those hours or you'll die.  And no one wants that (except your devious kitten).

Or maybe you thought you'd just put something heavy in the bottom of the garbage can to help it stay upright against your kitten's knocking-over advances. But unless you have a really heavy small thing, it will take up valuable space in your garbage can where the garbage is supposed to go! Excepting, of course, if you often throw away super heavy things in your garbage can already, and therefore don't have this problem.  But then the issue you need to be looking into is why you throw away anything heavier than cat fur and facial tissue in your bedroom trash can. Weird.

No, the real and only solution to outwitting your kitten and his mischievous ploys is to find a receptacle too heavy to knock over! Simple, really.

First, let's take a look at your current bedroom garbage can. Watch how this 3/4 full bottle of wine can easily start to topple it (and did so multiple times before I could take this photo):

You don't stand a chance. You might be thinking, "Just buy a heavier garbage can!" But heavy garbage cans are usually made of expensive materials and can cost up to $70! Paying that much for a bedroom garbage can would be letting the kitten win.

So what can you do? Go to your local home goods store and head to the clearance section of the garden center. Look for a...planter! They're heavy and usually shaped like a garbage can. Perfect. If you can find one that looks like a prop from a high school production of "Into the Woods", even better:

This thing is HEAVY. I know it looks like it's made of light plastic but it is a beast. Just carrying it from my car to the house was a struggle. Here's a show of its strength, featuring one of my latest DIY projects (hopefully I'll get to a post about it), my previously brown and black stool that is now turquoise and orange:

Notice how even the weight of this stool focused on the top edge of the planter cannot budge it!  Success. How many times has my kitten knocked this planter over since I started putting garbage in it? ZERO. Go and do likewise.

#186: Buffalo Springfield Again by Buffalo Springfield


Buffalo Springfield Again by Buffalo Springfield (1967)

Favorite Tracks: "Mr. Soul" and "A Child's Claim to Fame" and "Expecting to Fly" and "Bluebird" (specifically the banjo part) and "Sad Memory" and "Broken Arrow"

Thoughts: You know those weird misconceptions from childhood that you never quite move on from, even in adulthood? I mean, there are plenty you DO figure out. Like I no longer think Billy Joel is my uncle Joel, or Elton John is my uncle John. But one I still have problems with? Buffalo Springfield vs. Dusty Springfield. One is a band, one is a woman, I know. But both the names 'buffalo' and 'dusty' have western-y connotations. It still takes me a few moments to distinguish which music legend is which. Any CSNY fan worth their spit knows that Buffalo Springfield is the band that Stephen Stills and Neil Young were in together in until 1968. As you can tell by the album art, they're pretty great (though the album name is fairly uninspired).

The album was too short in my opinion, as listening to it was delightful.  The songs are varied and composed beautifully. Neil Young's songs definitely stuck out as my favorites, which sort of surprised me.  I thought for sure Stephen Stills' would have stuck out to me more. I hope there's at least one more Buffalo Springfield album on the list.  And some Dusty Springfield, now that I think about it!

Is This Better Than Bad?: My love for 60s folk/classic rock is no secret.